Back in the summer of 2000, I was home from college and working at our local library. It was a dream job for a gal like me, and I got a kick out of making recommendations to all the parents who came in complaining of kids who hated to read. During my first week, on a particularly busy morning, a young girl came up to the desk and asked me if we had a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. My response was to ask her if she could spell Azkaban for me.
I was very quickly schooled by the entire staff about a little British wizard and why no, we did not have a copy of that one, but she could get on the waiting list. The fifty person waiting list. What we did have a copy of was the first book, which I picked up out of curiosity after we got a shipment of Goblet of Fire copies a few days before they hit the shelves that had to be hidden, lest (as it was explained to me) some youngster spy them and try to climb over the counter to take one. I had to see what this was all about.
(Side note: I had a job where I was sitting around with a stack of book four days before it was released to the public and I did not read them. BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW ANY BETTER. I… I just… there are no words. Anyhoo.)
Suffice to say, Harry and I became total BFFs and an obsession was born. I bought them all immediately. I loaned them out to people. I convinced Princess Consuela that if she didn’t read them I’d possibly have to disown her. I once brought the first three books to a college friend who brought them all back a week and a half later, proclaimed, “these books are like crack, I need the next one NOW,” and proceeded to call me his dealer for the rest of the semester. I was at the bookstore at midnight to buy book five. And six. And seven. And while I love all the books, Prisoner of Azkaban holds a very dear place in my heart. Oh, but let me tell you why!
First, let’s start with the story itself. This is the first and only book of the series that really focuses on a villian other that Voldemort. Yes, there are other things to fear in the wizarding world, and one of them is this crazy-pants guy named Sirius Black who escaped from Azkaban prison and wants to kill Harry. OR SO IT WOULD SEEM. Any reader of the series know that Sirius actually turns out to be Harry’s beloved godfather and his father’s best friend, but for most of the book, both the reader and Harry think that he’s a killer. Hijinks ensue.
I could wax nostalgic for days about my love of this book, but here are a few reasons it is so near and dear to me…
- Um, hello? THE MARAUDERS. I love anything to do with James and Lily, so to get to meet Sirius and Remus, two of their nearest and dearest friends, was a dream come true. Though we don’t get to see much of Sirius in this one, I absolutely fell in love with Remus. I loved learning more about James through the eyes of his best friends, and I loved even more the rich ties to his parents that Harry gains by knowing these two men.
- And speaking of those crazy Marauders, who can forget the Marauder’s Map? I love that James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter invented it. I love that Fred and George eventually steal it for their own (because… obviously). I mean, how brilliant is it for a group of trouble makers to have a map that literally shows where everyone is at all times?? And the best part, obviously, is when Snape tries to use it and it starts insulting him. Brilliant.
- Professor Trelawney’s Divination class is hysterical. I love the image of all of them sitting around on giant poofs, staring into their tea cups and making up “signs” to crack each other up. Except Parvati and Lavendar, of course. They would NEVER.
- Hermione! OMG, Hermione is my girl in this book. Brilliant and snarky and still a lovable know-it-all even as she is kicking ass. This is the first book, to me, where Hermione really gets to shine and to be the one that goes on the big adventure with Harry. Throughout the series, I have loved their friendship, and I feel like this is the book where that love started. Also, she gets like a hundred million bonus points for hitting Malfoy.
- I totally want to hang out in Hogsmeade. How could you not?
- Slumber party in the Great Hall! Okay, so it’s more of a “we think there’s a killer in the castle, so everyone sleep in the Great Hall” thing, but still. I have no idea why I love it so much, I just do.
- Dementors are CREEPY. Deliciously creepy. And their introduction broadens this world so much, because it shows how there are more evil things in it than just Voldemort. Like crazy skeletal robed floaty guys that totally suck all the happiness out of your life with their giant, disgusting mouths. If that isn’t shudder-worthy, I don’t know what is.
- There’s time travel, and you know we love us some time-traveling children around here. Harry actually saves his own life time traveling, and the scene where he does is so touching and powerful and perfect. I believe it is the first scene where I actually teared up reading these books. It would not be the last.
- The movie. Yes, I know, but hear me out. If you know the story, then the movie is gorgeous and lush and totally captures the feeling of the wizarding world in the way I always saw it when I was reading the books. If you don’t know the story, the movie is a hot mess of “huh??” But still oh so pretty, I’m sure. I mean, that image of Harry standing in front of the giant clock window watching everyone leave for Hogsmeade… the picture of his parents dancing… the time turner… can you even stand it? SO PRETTY.
There you have it – just a few of the reasons this is my favorite book of the series. I’ve read it so many times that my copy has actually fallen apart. That’s love, people. And that’s why you should get yourself a copy and read it. You just might not want to borrow mine.